Sunday Spotlight is a feature we began in 2016. This year we’re spotlighting our favorite books, old and new. We’ll be raving about the books we love and being total fangirls. You’ve been warned. 🙂
I haven’t read SEP in awhile. This one caught my eye. I love the Chicago Stars series & am really looking forward to reading this one.
The Diva sat in the opposite corner of the limo, sunglasses still on, cheek resting against the window. So far, the only communication she’d shared with Thad was a look of active hostility when they’d gotten off the plane. Paisley’s thumbs raced over her phone, more likely texting a friend than doing any work. Henri was also on his cell, engaged in an energetic conversation. Since Thad only spoke some menu French, he couldn’t decipher the topic. The Diva, however, understood. She opened her eyes and waved a hand.
“C’est impossible, Henri.”
The way she said Marchand’s name . . . pushing the Aw-ree from the back of her throat. When Thad said the name, it took all his energy just to drop the h and the n. Forget all that back-of-the throat stuff.
Their subsequent exchange didn’t enlighten Thad about exactly what was so uh-poss-eeee-bluh, but as they pulled up to the hotel, Aw-ree enlightened him. “We’ve had a slight change of schedule. We need to move up today’s interviews immediately after we check in. An inconvenience, but these things do happen, as I’m sure you understand.”
Not even ten minutes later, he and The Diva were being ushered into the hotel’s presidential suite, with Henri and Paisley following. In addition to a luxurious living area, the suite had a dining room, kitchen, grand piano, and big French doors that opened onto a sweeping terrace. A large coffee table in the center of the living room held platters of pastries and assorted bottles of wine and mineral water.
“You have a few minutes to freshen up before the reporters arrive,” Henri said. “Paisley will bring them in.”
Paisley looked petulant, as if escorting reporters wasn’t part of her job description. Henri didn’t seem to notice. Or maybe he did and was pretending not to.
The Diva disappeared into the bathroom. As Henri double-checked the refreshments that had been laid out for the reporters, Thad wandered onto the tiled terrace to take in the view of Camelback Mountain. If only he were doing this promotion with a female rock star instead of a stuck-up opera singer. The next four weeks stretched in front of him like an endless road headed exactly nowhere.
Paisley ushered in two of the newspaper reporters and disappeared into the corner with her phone. Ironically, the music critic was big and beefy; the sports reporter small and wiry. The editor of the lifestyle section arrived soon after, a middle-aged woman with short hair slicked to her skull and multiple ear piercings.
Thad had yet to meet a member of the press who didn’t appreciate free food. Each of the men polished off a couple of cannoli along with a half dozen lemon cookies while the lifestyle editor sipped a glass of chardonnay and nibbled a few almonds. Thad exchanged small talk with all of them, hiding his irritation that The Diva was still sealed up in the bathroom. Just as he got ready to pound on the door and ask her if she’d fallen in, she deigned to join them.
She’d set aside her trench coat, along with the scarf and sunglasses, and she advanced toward the reporters, stilettos clicking, studiously ignoring him. Her sweep of dark hair coiled in one of those loose bun things, which—along with her royal-blue stilettos—brought her height to someplace in the vicinity of six feet. Her figure was formidable: broad shoulders, long neck, straight spine, and trim waist, all of it accompanied by skyscraper legs. She was neither skinny nor plump. More . . . He searched for the right word, but all he could come up with was “daunting.”
Along with her stilettos and black slacks, the open throat of her white blouse showed off a gold rope necklace with a pigeon egg–sized stone that appeared to be a giant ruby. She wore multiple rings, a couple of bracelets, and the Cavatina3. He liked his women small and cuddly. This one looked like a tigress who’d raided an Hermès store.
The men rose as she approached. Henri performed the introductions. She extended her hand and gazed down her long nose at them, her lips curved in a regal smile. “Gentlemen.” She acknowledged the lifestyle editor with a handshake and gracious smile before she folded herself into the chair across from Thad, ankles crossed off to the side, broomstick up her ass.
He deliberately slouched into his chair and stretched out his own legs, making himself comfortable. The classical music critic led off, but instead of addressing The Diva, he turned to Thad.
“Are you an opera fan?”
“Haven’t had much exposure,” he said.
The sports writer picked up on that. “What about you, Ms. Shore? Do you ever go to football games?”
“Last year I saw New Madrid play Manchester United.”
Thad could barely disguise a snort.
The sports writer exchanged an amused look with him before turning back to her. “Those are European soccer teams, Ms. Shore, not American football.”
She adopted a girls will be girls look that Thad didn’t buy for a second. “Of course. How silly of me.”
There wasn’t anything silly about this woman, from the throaty resonance of her voice to her figure, and something told him she knew damn well they were soccer teams. Or maybe not. For the first time, she’d spiked his curiosity.
“So you’ve never seen Thad Owens play?”
“No.” She gazed directly at Thad for the first time, eyes as cold as a January night. “Have you ever heard me sing?”
“I haven’t had the pleasure,” he said with his best drawl. “But my thirty-seventh is coming up, and I’d sure welcome a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ to mark the occasion.”
The lifestyle editor laughed, but The Diva didn’t crack a smile.
The classical music critic launched into some questions about a concert The Diva had given about European opera houses. The sports writer asked Thad about his fitness regimen and his thoughts on the Cardinals’ prospects for next season.
Paisley had returned to her cell phone coma. Marchand offered more wine. “We’re honored to have two people as accomplished as Madame Shore and Mr. Owens as our new Marchand ambassadors. Both of them are style setters.”
The lifestyle editor took in Thad’s gray slacks and quarter-zip raspberry cashmere sweater. “What’s your fashion philosophy, Mr. Owens?”
“Quality and comfort,” he said.
“A lot of men wouldn’t be brave enough to wear that color.”
“I like color,” he said, “but I’m not into trends, and the only jewelry I wear is a great watch.”
She cocked her head. “Maybe a wedding ring someday?”
He smiled. “I wouldn’t wish me on anybody. I’m too unreliable. Now when it comes to reliability”—he extended his wrist, earning his paycheck—“this is what I count on. I’ve worn Marchand watches for years. That’s why I was attracted to their invitation.
They’ve outdone themselves with the Victory780.”
Henri beamed. The lifestyle editor turned to The Diva. “What about you, Ms. Shore? How would you describe your fashion philosophy?”
“Quality and discomfort.” She surprised him by slipping off her stilettos.
The style editor’s gaze traveled from Thad’s raspberry sweater to The Diva’s black-and-white ensemble. “You seem to prefer neutral colors.”
“I believe in elegance.” She glanced at Thad with open contempt. What the hell was wrong with her? “Bright pink is best kept on the stage,” ’ she said. “I’m only speaking for myself, of
His sweater wasn’t fucking pink. It was raspberry!
“I’m very selective,” she went on, her attention returned to the lifestyle editor. “That’s why the Cavatina3 is the perfect watch for me.” She took it off and handed it to the reporter to examine more closely. “My schedule is demanding. I need a watch I can rely on, but also one that complements my wardrobe and my lifestyle.”
Adapted from WHEN STARS COLLIDE by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, published by William Morrow Books. Copyright © 2021 by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Reprinted courtesy of HarperCollinsPublishers.
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Are you as excited for this release as we are? Let us know how excited you are and what other books you’re looking forward to this year!